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The Google Algorithm: 400 Million Variables

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A century ago (well, ok, 1999) an article on Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s new company described the nascent Google as a search engine that (gasp) just searches.

Credit Digg, Adam Feuerstein, and the Internet Archive for bringing an old snippet of web history to light.

Feuerstein’s article noted how Excite, Infoseek, and Yahoo shifted from being search engines to portal models. This was two years before Terry Semel came on board with Yahoo, three and a half years before search became more of a Yahoo focus.

Google went the other way. It focused on search only. It was a tough concept to grok:

When I met with Page last week, he tried to explain what makes the Google search so superior. Honestly, I didn’t quite get it. Suffice to say that Google uses some complex math to rank the importance of a web site, based in part on the importance of other pages that are linked to it. Page says the equation that does all this has 400 million variables. At that point, my brain blinked off.


Page and Brin saw “limited advertising” as a revenue source, and talked about offering the site on a co-branded basis with the likes of Netscape. Of course, Netscape figured prominently in Google’s future, though they didn’t realize it at the time.

Omid Kordestani came over from Netscape, where he was in charge of banner advertising, to Google. He helped nudge the company onto the contextual advertising track. The rest, as they say, is history.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.

The Google Algorithm: 400 Million Variables
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